“Unsubscribe Lifehacker: My Email to Gina Trapani”

This morning, the Twitterverse was a flame after Gina Trapani from Lifehacker tweeted a link to a wiki she had created. The wiki, PR Companies Who Spam Bloggers, is a ready-to-paste-into-your-spam-filter list of domains belonging to a good chunk of the tech PR firms out there. Her response, thus far, has been linking back to this blog post from Matt Haughey. [UPDATED: Gina emailed saying she had changed the wiki to include attribution and reasoning. See the email, my response and my reasoning behind this post here.]

In the past, socialTNT has responded with blog posts on how to increase communications (you can find those here and here). Since there is no attribution on the wiki, I had no clue who had created the until someone shared Gina’s original Tweet. Because I found this semi-anonymous approach to be rather old-school in nature, I decided to send her the below email. It may be a little harsh, but the bottom line is that her actions affect the wallets of PR professionals everywhere. If you find my email to be a little agitated, you might prefer Todd Defren’s open letter to Gina or Brian Solis’ post discussing PR “spam.” Also, please feel free to unsubscribe Lifehacker from your RSS feed.

What do you think of Gina’s actions? Or my email? Please share your thoughts.

—————–

Hi Gina:

My name is Chris Lynn. I edit a blog called socialTNT. Our mission here is to create a discussion between PR Pros, Marketers, Bloggers and Journalists on social media and its role in our respective professions. While not as big as Lifehacker, we still receive a nice amount of traffic. I would love to expand socialTNT into something larger, but I don’t have a lot of extra time to invest. You see, I work full-time as a PR professional.

As a PR person in the new media age, I work daily with bloggers and journalists, sometimes through the phone, sometimes through email/twitter/IM. No matter what the medium, I try to devote 100% of myself to the process. I say “try” because we all have bad days, but it’s a job. I’m sure you have at least one post that wasn’t your best, so maybe you can empathize.

After I finish working 9 hour days, I come home and work on the blog. That can mean anything from reading through my feeds to planning the interviews, tweaking layouts, researching emerging tech, or just learning editing software. Then I write about it. I try to stay tuned into trends in media, marketing and PR–like I said, I don’t have a lot of time to write, but I do have a lot of ideas.

With my professional life (both with the blog and at the agency) I operate on these 3 principles:

  1. Accountability and as much Transparency as possible
  2. Communication and Conversation
  3. Education and Peer Development

Your wiki doesn’t do any of the above. [UPDATED: Gina emailed saying she had changed the wiki to include attribution and reasoning.] Sure, you semi-transparently Tweeted the link. Those who stumble upon the wiki won’t know this. By cutting off domains, you stifle conversation. Had you blogged the list, there might have been debate/discussion in the comments. Yes, Twitter is a discussion, but it’s not particularly contiguous, nor is it associated with the list. Finally, your post did nothing along the lines of education. In my eyes, your move was an aggressive one that came from a place of anger instead of looking towards understanding.

In the new media age, information is currency. By limiting the flow of information, you could find yourself bankrupt. Just remember: there’s always another up-and-comer in the wings who might just be a little thirstier than you. Oh, and another thing about the new media age: your audience is fluid. As soon as they find something better, they are quick to change their click.

In true liquid fashion, I’m exercising my right to click by unsubscribing Lifehacker from my RSS feed until the wiki is removed or until you start a more genuine dialog–on my blog or on your own. [UPDATED: Gina emailed saying she had changed the wiki to include attribution and reasoning.] I don’t support negativity. At all.

Just remember that your flippant actions and comments can affect the livelihoods of real people with real families. Please don’t take that lightly.

Best,

Chris

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17 Comments

Filed under Blogger Relations, It's A Conversation, Public Relations 2.0, Rants

17 responses to ““Unsubscribe Lifehacker: My Email to Gina Trapani”

  1. I missed a lot not being on Twitter today! Just read Todd’s post and left a comment. Thought it appropriate to share part of it here since this is one of the blogs that has been an important educational source for PR people, including me:

    As someone who not only has pitched media and bloggers for longer than I can remember, but also receives dozens of pitches for my own blog each week, I certainly can empathize with both sides and I also agree with Gina that people should NEVER pitch her at her personal email. However, my issue remains with the way people are punishing people, it is an overreaction of media and bloggers by outing people on blogs.

    It’s mean and it smacks of self-righteousness, it is done with little or no research into the companies nor an appreciation for all the times PR people have actually helped them out.

    A large part of our time in PR is about teaching the right way and the wrong way, and this blog is one of the central educational sources. Difficult or note, it is certainly preferable to ‘blacklists’.

    Todd (Chris), just keep on doing what you are doing because you guys ARE doing it the right way; through education and transparency.

    /kff

  2. Stephanie

    Well done.

  3. Kyle:

    You summed it up perfectly. I agree with you 100%.

    This blog’s central premise is to educate and evolve our industries. My previous posts were to help the PR community see blogger/press relations from an double agent’s perspective. This post is to help journos/bloggers see how their rash actions can affect people. I felt I had to write it, but tried to remain constructive.

  4. “It’s mean and it smacks of self-righteousness, it is done with little or no research into the companies nor an appreciation for all the times PR people have actually helped them out.”

    As I said on my own blog post, I don’t get anything out of these PR pitches — they are basically like cold calls to my office phone, several times a day, for the past 4-5 years.

    I was angry enough to make my post that sparked Gina’s list today because I never asked to be pitched by any PR person. I stopped publishing my personal email address anywhere on my sites about two years ago, and still I get loads of email I don’t want. I keep reading about PR people saying they would respect a message saying “don’t send PR pitches to me” on a contact page, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing someone would need to add in the first place, if PR reps had the common courtesy of asking before they add me to an agency list.

  5. I respect your indignation, but you’re wrong. Is it that hard to follow directions? Apparently, yes, because people were emailing her at a personal email address.

    End of story.

  6. Gina’s wiki now includes a line about her identity and reasoning.

  7. Jeremy:

    I agree that she has her reasoning, and I’m sure it was annoying. My post wasn’t about that. And, at the time I wrote the post, there was no backstory or reasoning associated with her actions.

    My post was about accountability, communication and education. If someone creates something that could impact people’s pocket books, that person should take responsibility for their actions. Especially if that person is already involved in social media and understands that nature of how it works.

    On Gina’s blog and in her books, she helps educate people by offering tips and tricks to do things more effectively. That’s what was so irksome about the situation. She could have easily taken the same amount of time to write a post like those written by Mashable or ReadWriteWeb. Had she written an educational post–or really any post at all–she could have positively affected the conversation.

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  9. I just heard that Cision/MediaMap (the primary dbase on which PR people rely) offers Gina’s personal email address (vs. tips@lifehacker.com).

    May be a rumor, I can’t check from home … but while it does not excuse bad behavior, if it’s true then it certainly might explain some of the bad practices re: Gina.

  10. I can agree with a lot that you’ve said, Chris, and in the comments.

    Something new that occurs to me, Gina is now correcting some of the problems with her methodology. Hmm? OK, so she is correcting her improper actions, yet her wiki remains. Did she write to those that she felt were offending her and let them correct their actions? She’s learning from feedback via blogs & twitter. There is a bit of a disconnect here.

    Are those that bothered her not worthy of feedback, too? (I’m talking about the feedback that doesn’t adversely impact one’s reputation.) I’m betting the answer is no, at least to her. There is a problem here.

    Remember, we’re trusting Gina that these e-mails she received were not relevant. I’m not saying she’s lying, but has anyone actually seen examples of the e-mails? Think of the Bad Pitch Blog. At least there we can see and judge for ourselves if the pitch was off target.

    Your example of unsubscribing from her blog, is a good illustration as to the payback she can receive, too. However, I think we all know that 99.9% of her readers won’t react that way.

    When these “punishment” instances occur, especially if they are like Chris Anderson’s impudent and irrational example, then they are wrong. They should be condemned.

    I don’t know either Chris or Gina, of course, but she does not seem to be vitriolic. So, if she continues to be willing to modify her approach, that’s a good thing. I do agree that her wiki seems to be more and more petty as time goes on. Do we really expect Gina to vet each addition to the wiki? I don’t.

    The wiki can stay or go. Leave it up there, but I bet time will close down any edits, actually. Her point is made. I went to the wiki and signed in to see if it could be edited. One must ask for a code to be allowed to add to the list. This is a good sign, but how long (really) is Gina going to devote her time to the wiki? Not much, if any, in the future.

    Lastly, the point of contention in all of this is the e-mails to her private/personal address. Those that did that are guilty of bad practice. Good practice takes time. Even if they trusted, say a Cision or other company’s list (sorry, Cision, not meaning to single you out), we are all really required to do some follow up to see if each one is the appropriate e-mail address preferred by the recipient.

    Remember, good practice takes time. The model for pitching and billing for hours may need to change. That time is something I bet most clients (and even agencies) are not eager to see add up.

  11. Robert:

    Thanks so much for your comment! Ever the sage, you’ve offered several insightful thoughts that have my mind racing.

    First off, I think it’s great that Gina has started correcting her original methodology–but, as you say, the feedback that can be valuable for growth/learning is missing. The Bad Pitch blog is a great example of judgment in the new media age; we as an Internet public can see the emails, make our own evaluations, and as PR pros, learn from the mistakes of others.

    What to do with the wiki? It seems like a lot of petty maintenance. To me, it now presents this paradox: Gina values PR enough to promote the tips inbox, but conversely still keeps this list, a virtual laundry list of every tech PR firm, as a public symbol of disdain for the profession.

    Is Cision/Media Map to blame? I found her at ginatrapani.org in Cision, and used it to send her the above email. I’ve never pitched Gina–my clients don’t fit the blogs focus–so I’m not sure how she handles inappropriate pitches or emails to her personal addy. Does she respond back? If not, I’m not sure people would know not to pitch her at that address.

    As you mention in your post, it goes back to relations, especially with bloggers. It does take more time, but the mutual relationship can be beneficial. I am thankful for the reporters and bloggers that let me know when I am off target. That, however, does take time. Ultimately, it’s about trust from both sides. On a professional level, I’m not sure I could trust someone who devalues an industry by maintaining a public list without offering feedback. It’s one-sided, and that’s not what a relationship is about.

    Robert, as always, it’s a pleasure seeing you drop by!

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  13. Mary Wallace

    Chris,
    I agree. Gina’s blanket vomit of so many PR names was like the mean teacher in middle school who screams ‘detention’ instead of teaching kids how to behave. Very old school and shows she and the author of the wiki are best at knee-jerk anger, instead of cooperative involvement. I understand being pissed, I understand venting, but a wholesale list of the local pr industry is bitchy and destructive. I’d have preferred a blog with ALL CAPS…

    as an addendum, if her posts have become more petty, less professional with time, and she spends her energy on this, it will make her untrustworthy in her line of work. People don’t like working with meanies.

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